Hewitt Mayor Ed Passalugo may have circumvented Texas open meetings laws by trying to create what is known as a “walking quorum,” Hewitt Mayor Pro Tem Steve Fortenberry alleges in a complaint.
In a letter dated May 17 and titled “report of official misconduct by Mayor Ed Passalugo,” Fortenberry said he has contacted “the appropriate law agency,” as well as filing the complaint with the city, because he thinks the mayor’s actions “go against the spirit and intent of the open meetings process.”
The Hewitt City Council is set Monday night to discuss Fortenberry’s complaint and ones filed by two city employees, who allege Passalugo engaged in gender bias, harassment, workplace bullying and generally has created a hostile work environment.
Passalugo, 66, said Sunday evening that he had just read Fortenberry’s complaint and said he will address the matter with his attorney, Peter Rusek. Rusek did not return a phone call Sunday.
Passalugo, who spent four days in the hospital after suffering a stroke in September, said he suffered a transient ischemic attack, or a mini-stroke, Friday afternoon and was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon.
He said the stroke “definitely” was brought on by the allegations that surfaced publicly last week. He said his left side and his face were numb and he had difficulty swallowing and drinking water.
Despite the medical setback, Passalugo said he will attend Monday night’s city council meeting if his doctor clears him.
In Fortenberry’s report, obtained Sunday evening by the Tribune-Herald, he says the mayor called him May 8 after the mayor spoke with City Manager Adam Miles “about things we wanted to see in the budget.”
“Mayor Passalugo made assertions and statements to me that gave me reason to believe he was acting in a deceptive, subversive, disruptive and possibly illegal manner,” Fortenberry’s complaint states.
Fortenberry alleges that Passalugo said the council “was going to get rid of the ‘purple-haired girl’ and Katie Allgood. He said other employees also were discussed.
The complaint says the “purple-haired girl” referred to is Cassie Rose Muske, parks and media coordinator. Allgood is the city’s managing director of administration. Both Muske and Allgood have filed complaints against Passalugo and have hired attorney Ryan Johnson to represent them in potential litigation against the city and the mayor.
Fortenberry said he talked to Miles about the mayor’s phone call and was told “the mayor’s actions appeared to be an attempt to circumvent state law by creating what is known as a ‘walking quorum,’ which is illegal and against the open meetings act of the State of Texas,” the complaint says.
Passalugo told Fortenberry that he “polled several members of the council” and said the council will terminate the employment of certain city employees, according to Fortenberry’s complaint. Fortenberry said Passalugo invited him and Council member Kurt Krakowian to a breakfast meeting to “further discuss the tax rate, budget cuts and specific employees he wanted terminated,” the complaint states.
Fortenberry didn’t go to the meeting, but Passalugo said if he could not attend, he would try to contact another council member to come to the breakfast.
“I am highly concerned about other council members being implicated in Mayor Passalugo’s schemes,” Fortenberry wrote in his complaint.
Krakowian said Sunday he discussed a breakfast meeting with the mayor, but the topic involved a grassroots involvement program sponsored by the Texas Municipal League and representatives from other cities and entities were scheduled to attend. Krakowian said the breakfast meeting never occurred.
Krakowian said he questions some of the assertions in Fortenberry’s complaint because council members, including Passalugo, know they have no authority to hire or fire city employees, except for the city manager and a few other positions.
“I think the citizens need to know the full scope of what is happening here,” Krakowian said. “I think a lot of things are happening to certain people who won’t rubber stamp Adam Miles’ glorious budget and roll proposal.”
The Hewitt City Council has six members and a mayor, who is elected by the council. Four members constitute a quorum.